Berne awaits another footballing miracle

5th December 2007, Comments 0 comments

Berne, Switzerland's capital city is waiting to see what Euro 2008 brings.

Miraculous Berne, it says on the city's official website inviting visitors to cast their minds back more than 50 years to the 1954 World Cup.

The surprise victory by Germany over Hungary became known as the Miracle of Berne. Now Switzerland's capital city is waiting to see what Euro 2008 brings.

Despite being the capital and seat of government it is the smallest city of the four Swiss Euro 2008 venues.

The city's mayor, Alexander Tschappat, has gone shamelessly Euro 2008 crazy with his blog usefully dedicated to the event complete with prizes and competitions. He is also promising a "massive festival" for visitors, details yet to be released.

The tournament has focused municipal attention on a few unwelcome realities including the numbers of drunks, beggars and homeless people gathered round the station, the arrival point for many Euro 2008 fans. The city was also the scene of riots ahead of the federal elections in October.

The city would understandably prefer to focus on its more attractive features including its picturesque medieval Old Town, built in 15th century, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The city was founded in 1191 on a peninsula on the Rive Aare prized for its defensive position. Legend has it that its founder, Berchtold V von Zähringen, killed a bear on the site, inspiring the city name from the word bear (baer in German.).

Berne is known for its Bear Pits where bears are still kept though there are plans finally to do away with their cramped quarters and create more of a park. Bears have been kept in Berne since 1403 and on the site of the existing pits since 1513. The bear is the city emblem, featuring on the cantonal flag and was featured on the oldest known city seal (1224).

The city is also famous for its six kilometres of covered shopping arcades, its many fountains and historic towers.

The Clock Tower (Zytglogge in Swiss German) was part of Berne's first western city gate and its revolving clockwork figures, dating from the 16th century, provide a free show for the public at four minutes to the hour.

It is claimed the clock tower inspired scientist Albert Einstein, who developed his theory of relativity here in 1905 while working as a patent clerk in Berne. His former home is now the Einstein Museum.

The platform of the 101-metre-high cathedral tower of the 15th century gothic Muenster offer fabulous views of the old town and ancient fortifications dropping down steeply to the river and, in good weather, views of the Bernese Alps.

The Florentine style parliament buildings (Bundeshauser), home to the Swiss federal parliament, are worth a look, particularly as it is here that giant viewing screens will be placed on the Bundesplatz for the tournament. The first Berne game is played on June 9 at the Stade de Suisse, home ground to BSC Young Boys.

DPA 2007

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